On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

“Ma, there is so much I want to tell you. I was once foolish enough to believe knowledge would clarify, but some things are so gauzed behind layers of syntax and semantics, behind days and hours, names forgotten, salvaged and shed, that simply knowing the wound exists does nothing to reveal it.”

Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Beautiful is written as a letter from a son (Little Dog) addressed to his illiterate mother, unearthing a family history from before his birth in Vietnam. Like a confessional love poem, beginning from reflections of his childhood, immigrating to the United States with his mother and grandmother to his difficult adolescence growing up in Hartford, Connecticut discovering his sexuality. The central irony being that although we wonder whether the mother will ever read her son’s true words, the book is an attempt for Little Dog to understand the true mind of his mother.
Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, Little Dog’s memories build a narrative exploring the complex American identity and inter generational trauma. Read it and weep.

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